buy it, adjust it once, and enjoy trouble-free espresso from then on
Positive Product Points
very quiet grinder grinds coffee very well stepped adjustment takes guesswork out of grind size chrome finish looks great next to my andreja premium!
Negative Product Points
doser volume not intuitive or easy coffee catch tray is pathetically small bolt-on tamper is really a joke on/off switch should be push button, not a rocker switch
this is my first real espresso coffee grinder. i have used a krups grinder for other coffee for more than 30 years. this was the kind of of krups grinder where the beans go in at the top, and grinding wheels grind it into a plastic catch box on the bottom. naively, when i first got the andreja premium espresso machine from chris's coffee service, i though "why spend the extra $400 on a grinder when i already have one that's worked for 30 years?" well, as i said, i was naive, but you can't blame a guy for trying!
and try i did. the krups grinder has an adjustment knob on the back, and i adjusted it down to the smallest grind size i could in order to try out my new espresso machine. looks can be deceiving in ground coffee land. the ground beans that came out of the krups grinder looked just like the grounds i'd seen out of many other, more expensive espresso grinders. the grounds were lighter colored than the original dark beans, and had a "fluffy" quality to them when rubbed between the fingers. the ground beans had a nice aroma of espresso. so, i gave making a few shots of espresso a try. this is where the theory fell to the ground!
the espresso that came out was so awfully bitter that i thought i'd just made a huge mistake buying the maker in the first place. the espresso shots looked good, had nice crema on top, and even smelled good. but, it all tasted so bitter that i had a moment of self doubt and a bit of depression.
however, i had read all about grinders on coffeegeek, chris's coffee website, and other internet locations. all the comments on grinders had to do with the special way that espresso grinders handle grinding the beans - slow speed burrs, large diameter burrs, not heating up the beans too much during grinding, and all manner of other details normally not attended to with "your basic coffee bean grinder". going on the principle that so many people couldn't be all wrong, i bit the bullet and bought the macap m4 grinder fom 1st line. i had been convinced about the quality of the macap after reading about it on coffeegeek and chris's. the price was what kept me from ordering it initially, coupled with the fact of my other grinder already in house. but, i ordered it after the fact, as a last ditch effort before sending the espresso machine back.
i am *so glad* i took this plunge! what a massive, huge, monsterous difference the macap grinder made! the first shot of espresso from the andreja using these grounds turned me into a complete devotee. i immediately took the krups grinder out of service, wrapped it up, and stored it with my old drip coffee maker (also out to pasture now that i have an espresso machine). the krups grinder uses small, high speed grinding wheels, which must have "mistreated" the espresso beans on their way through the grinder. the slower, quieter macap produces nice, fluffy grounds, not burned or otherwise ruined, which then make excellent espresso. i was amazed, pleased, and relieved!
while i basically love this grinder, there are a few joys and pitfalls about it: to me, the best "joy" is the stepped adjustement for grind size. i LIKE the steps provided by macap. i use the second-from-the-end smallest grind, and that size works perfectly for me. i do not believe i'd gain anything with a stepless adjustement to make microscopic changes. with a stepped adjustment, you can always go right back to the exact size you started with, should you want to experiment. if you're fussing with a stepless adjustment, you'd have a way harder time getting back to your starting point if you move the adjuster.
the pitfalls about this grinder are getting the doser to dispense more or less per pull than origianlly set at the factory, and dealing witht the teeny, tiny grounds catch tray. i find the dosing a little troublesome. i'd like to increase the dose per epull, but have not been successful at finding out how. right now, i have to overfill the portafilter to get the amount i want, then put the excess back into the doser. this leads us to the next pitfall: that small catch tray. it needs to be at least twice the size it is now to catch all the coffee that spills over when the portafiler is overfilled. half of the spilled coffee goes on my counter, which is messy to clean up and a pain to deal with. the final pitfall is the rocker switch for power. it takes some amount force to turn the switch on, and that moves the machine an inch or so when you do it. i have to hold the top of the machine with my left hand, and turn on the switch with my right to prevent movement. a better type of power switch would be a push button one that requires virtually no force to turn on and off. this is not a showstopper, but is an annoyance on a daily basis.
that said, i'd still give this grinder a big thumbs up, and would recommend this espresso grinder to anyone sincerely interested in great coffee at home. don't be skimpy about this last leg of the barista experience - you will not be sorry you spent the money.
buying from 1st line couldn't have been easier, smoother or more trouble-free. i ordered the grinder on a thursday, and it arrived at my house (3,000 miles away) on monday. it was well packed, and arrived completely intact. the staff at 1st line was friendly and professional. i'd recommend 1st line as much as i'd recommend the grinder itself.
Three Month Followup
atfter 6 months of daily use, i am still quite impressed with the macap m4. the consistency of the grind is uniform at any step of the grind size, the machine works flawlessly and quietly. i am still very happy i choose to spend the extra dollars on an espresso grinder!
so far, the macap m4 has withstood the test of time very well. since i grind for one shot of espresso a day, given the build quality of the grinder, i believe i have purchased the last espresso bean grinder i will ever need. in 20 or 30 years, i may splurge and have the burrs replaced. :) products that last a long time, and work consistently over the full lifetime, always impress me. ask me again in 2 years! but, i have condifence tthat his grinder will faihtfully be doing the deed for the long haul.
One Year Followup
now, after a year with this grinder, i will be selling it in favor of a la cimbali junior, or perhaps the macap M4 stepless.
while i started out with this grinder, and enjoyed the stepped grinding capability, i find now that as my barista skills slowly get better, i need more control over the grind size than a stepped grinder can provide. i still think the build quality of the mapcap M4 is very high, and it still performs like a champ. but, for about $50 more, you can get a stepless grinder that will afford all the fine control over the grind that a serious espresso drinker will need.
given the close costs between the stepped grinder and the stepless, i have revised my "cost vs. value" from 9 to 2. the macap M4 stepped grinder (in my mind) is no longer a good value. the introduction of the stepless M4, and the very close cost of a la cimbali junior, make the stepped M4 a grinder of the past, or a good beginner's grinder. the quality is there, and that certainly counts for a lot. i'll be selling this grinder soon, and i hope a fellow coffee geek can use it as a way to get started. :-)